It would have been a definite achievement to have avoided seeing any mention of food & drink inflation in the media during the first couple of months of 2017.
Coverage included supermarkets rationing fresh salad and veg due to shortages caused by poor weather in Spain and elsewhere in Europe; the rising cost of wine imported into the UK; and global problems with supplies of salmon which have driven up prices as well as reducing the size of fish available.
We at Lynx found even found ourselves caught up in the salmon story, when we were contacted by the Financial Times for a comment, which ended up being reported by newspapers around the world.
While media interest will often report an issue and then move on, many of the challenges to the supply chain are longer term. Globally, factors such as increasing population and a rise in the number of extreme weather incidents affecting crops, have been putting upward pressure on food prices. Closer to home, a steady rise in the number of UK farmers exiting key areas such as pork and dairy production for economic reasons, has also had an impact.
However, it was the vote to leave the EU, and the subsequent fall in the value of sterling against both the euro and the dollar that put the situation into sharp focus. Around a quarter of the food eaten in the UK is imported from Europe, while commodities such as cooking oil and coffee are traded globally in dollars. That all means paying more in real for the same products.
It’s a complex range of factors, but whatever the causes, the one thing that chefs can’t afford to do is nothing – there are steps you can take to mitigate the impact. A disciplined approach to both buying and menu planning will help keep businesses competitive in a challenging market. These can include:
- With prices volatile, always check supplier price lists and invoices on regular orders. If you receive a regular telesales call from suppliers, ask about any significant price changes to items you order regularly, and also get in the habit of asking about any special offers or promotions;
- Plan menu changes at least seasonally to use meat, fish, fruit and veg when it is at its highest quality and best value.
- Use flexible menu descriptions, such as ‘catch of the day’ and ‘served with fresh, seasonal vegetables’ in order to make the most of the produce suppliers have on offer;
- Make the most of daily specials boards to feature this best-available produce;
- In the kitchen, use menu/recipe templates and photos to ensure kitchen staff prepare and portion dishes correctly, reducing waste and maximising the yield from each ingredient;
- Ensure that everyone involved in menu planning and ordering has up-to-date buying lists and knows which suppliers to use across every area of the menu;
- Carefully monitor food waste, both during prep and on plates coming back into the kitchen. Adjust dish templates, ingredients and portion sizes where needed;
- Set clear margins and GPs when planning menus and specials. To help, the FREE Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App is available to download for Apple and Android.
No business will be immune to the effects of inflation, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Our priorities at Lynx Purchasing are to negotiate the best possible prices with suppliers for our customers; to put pricing agreements in place which allow operators to plan menus with confidence; and to continue to share our insight into pricing and market trends.
It is now more essential than ever for operators to plan their menus effectively, price their dishes profitably, and work closely with suppliers to maintain purchasing discipline. Those who fail to act now could well find themselves struggling very soon.
Lynx Purchasing is a Craft Guild of Chefs Business Partner, and works with more than 2,200 hospitality and catering operators to match them with the best suppliers and get the best possible prices on food and drink, as well as a whole range of essential products and services. Lynx’s buying experts help operators buy better and save time and money, year after year. The Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, the first digital product endorsed by the Craft Guild, is available to download for Apple and Android devices.